Putting on a Show

Bolton Twill Day

  • Set Design, Build & Paint

  • Lighting Design & Operation

  • Sound Design & Operation

  • Costume

  • Properties

  • Prompt

  • Hair and Make-Up

  • Publicity

  • Front of House

  • Bar management

Putting on a Show

This section is to give you some inkling as to how we get from “that seems like a good idea….”     to the thunderous applause of the final night.  Click on a link in the table below to learn about a specific function or just scroll down this page to review the whole process.

 

Sequence of events

Selecting a play

The Director

The Actors

From Hall to Theatre (video)

Production Team

 
 

Sequence of Events

Normally two main productions are staged each year, typically in April & November.  We try to have the next play and director chosen 5 - 6 months ahead to allow time for planning without too much being left to the last minute.  Rehearsals begin about ten weeks before opening night and are normally on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, with occasional Sunday afternoons. Regular production meetings to co-ordinate front of house, backstage, ordering materials and sorting out who is doing what, are held throughout the rehearsal period.

A few weeks before the play goes on, all members of the group as well as the cast and production team are invited to a pre-production working day to check lights, prepare flats and scenery, sort out publicity material, generally tie up any loose ends, and enjoy a sociable lunch together. These are known as ‘Bolton Twill Days’, named after the material we use to cover scenery.

Before any production can take place our venue, The West Ashling Village Hall has to be turned into a theatre space. This is done on the Thursday evening prior to the production week and involves members helping out to build the raked seating. With a good turn-out of helpers this can be achieved in under an hour

The final ‘get-in’ and technical rehearsal are held on the weekend before production week, which begins with a dress rehearsal on the Monday evening and first night on a Tuesday.

Following the final performance on Saturday night there is a post-show party, so lots of members try to come on the last night so as to join in.   The get-out follows on the Sunday morning when we all congregate to take it all apart, clean up and stack everything away ready for next time, followed by a “hair of the dog” at the pub.

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Selecting a Play

Proposals for new productions are invited in the newsletter which goes to each member every month, and the Chairman may approach potential directors individually.  Sometimes the perfect director comes along and offers to direct a terrific play which everyone loves.  Sometimes a bit of negotiation is needed to persuade a potential director to take the plunge or to agree the choice of play. New directors are always welcome, although ideally the director should have experience of directing or acting.  Novice directors are encouraged to cut their teeth on a studio production or rehearsed play reading  before undertaking a major production.  A huge amount of support is available from the committee and elsewhere to help fledgling directors on their way.

The Management Committee review and agree the final choice of play and director.  We try to get a good balance between comedy and more dramatic works, and to explore modern plays as well as classics.  A huge variety of material has been presented in recent years.  Click on Committee Roles to learn more about the Committee and what it does.

The Committee also has to decide practical issues, such as whether the play is likely to be within the Society’s capacity to stage in terms of finance, effort and resources.  If we’ve just finished an expensive-to-stage play with 25 actors in period costume, two sets and 10 scene changes we might want something a little simpler next time!

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The Director

So, once the Director and choice of play have been approved by the Chairman and Committee, the wheels of production start turning. The Director reports directly to the Committee - attending all Committee meetings prior, during and post production - and can call on the Committee for support with any aspect of the production. The Director is responsible for casting, setting a budget, drawing up a rehearsal schedule and running rehearsals. The production meetings are essential to ensure all the production team is aware of the Director's requirements, the budget, etc.  The Production Planning Pro Forma provides some helpful guidance.

The Actors

There is absolutely no closed shop and no seniority order in our casting.  We hold open auditions for every play, and any member, no matter how new, can audition.  Of course it’s not unusual to have several people up for the same part, and selection for a part is entirely within the Director’s discretion.

Members have been seen currying favour with whoever is the current Director by offering to buy them a drink in the pub after the audition.  This kind of behaviour is always encouraged.

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Production Team

Every production should have a Production Manager to assist the Director, organise the production team and cast, liaise with the Resident Stage Manager and generally handle all organisational aspects of the production.  This leaves the Director free to concentrate on the artistic side.  Normally the Production Manager doubles as Company Stage Manager.

There is a long list of interesting and rewarding jobs which have to be done for each production:

 
 
 
 

  • Set Design, Build & Paint

  • Lighting Design & Operation

  • Sound Design & Operation

  • Costume

  • Properties

  • Prompt

  • Hair and Make-Up

  • Publicity

  • Front of House

  • Bar management

Our well-oiled production team getting Sybil, our star painter, dressed for action

A strength of the group is that we can put together well-oiled (sometimes!) production teams, covering all the above skills.   Knowing that we can always get the backstage expertly done gives our Directors the support and confidence they need. New blood is always needed and, however expert they now look, most of the people doing this stuff learned how by being shown by other members.  So if you’d like to help, don’t worry if you’ve no experience, neither had they when they started. Admit that you can wire a plug, know the difference between pan stick and lipstick, or can recognise a

hammer, and you’ll be welcomed with open arms.

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Set

There's set design, set construction - not necessarily

(but quite often) undertaken by the same person – and

set painting which sometimes needs a bit of artistic talent.

The Director is usually responsible for finding the Set

Designer and they need to work closely together from an

early stage to ensure that the design is available when

rehearsals start.  If the Set Designer is unfamiliar with the

hall, the Resident Stage Manager can assist with advice

about the measurements, facilities, etc. A diagram or

simple model can help the cast to visualise the space and

layout within which they have to work. Ideally, and

particularly if the set is complicated, there should be a

team of people to work on the construction and to assist

with the erection of the set and with any set changes

required during the run.

The set of 'Dancing at Lughnasa', note the period radio, the stone sink and the range. A triumph for the Set Designer, Set Builders , Props and Painters

Lighting

This also is split into lighting design and lighting operation and, again, this can be two separate people. The Lighting Designer works closely with the Director and with the Lighting Operator. The lighting equipment needs to be installed and set up prior to the technical rehearsal.

A very simple set can be made impressive with the right lighting as this example of the moon in Our Town shows

The apparent blazing of Miss Haversham's dress in 'Great Expectations' was achieved by use of lighting plus a cannister of smoke

Sound

As with the set and lighting, the Sound Designer may be responsible for recording all the sound, but may not operate the sound during the run. The sound equipment needs to be installed and set up prior to the technical rehearsal.  It is sometimes helpful to have sound available at the later rehearsals.

Costume

Depending on the type of production, this may require not only knowledge of costume, but also the ability to sew! All costumes will need to be acquired and fitted by the person responsible for costume, and approved by the Director.

 

Properties

Finding the right props for a play can require a fair amount

of ingenuity, good powers of persuasion and basically

begging, borrowing and - well no-one has actually had to

resort to stealing yet but who knows.... Where items for a

specific period are needed finding things can be both

challenging and great fun.  As well as actually finding the

props, the job means attending rehearsals as required by

the Director and being present during the run.

Prompt

Having a prompt is a great source of reassurance for the

cast so everyone is always very nice to the Prompt!  The

Prompt will need to attend all rehearsals from the

“no books” point onwards as required by the Director.

An example of props required for scene setting for 'Great Expectations'.

Hair and Make Up

Some skill and experience is needed here and there will usually be a small team of people required, depending on the size of the cast. The Director will liaise with the team leader.

Front of House

The Front of House Manager is responsible for looking after the audience - a rota of people is organised to collect tickets on the door, sell programmes and act as Fire Warden during the evening.

 

The Bar Manager

The Bar Manager buys the drinks, hires the glasses, keeps track of the cash and smiles happily at the customers.  The bar usually makes a healthy profit which helps keep ticket prices down.

 

And finally....

A bit of socialising is an integral part of the whole activity and is certainly well supported, be it drinks after rehearsals or following production meetings, long lunch during the ‘Bolton Twill Day’ and the weekends of the get-in and get-out, or the post-show party.   The management people call it team building……

Anyway it works, and oddly enough we have a good time, which is what it’s all about.

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